- Aaron Schatz
For the most part, the 49ers have gotten off to their hot start because of defense and special teams. Both units rank second in the league according to the Football Outsiders' DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) ratings. But the 49ers are also showing a strong passing game, led by Smith, a previously undistinguished quarterback.
Smith is completing 65.9 percent of passes with seven touchdowns and one pick, plus a career-high 7.7 yards per attempt. According to Football Outsiders stats, Smith has been the 10th-best quarterback in the league on a per-play basis this season.
The question is obvious: Can Smith possibly play this well going forward? And how rare is this kind of improvement from a quarterback who struggled so much in his first six seasons?
Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders looks at Alex Smith's 2011 performance so far for the surprising San Francisco 49ers. Are there any historical precedents for a QB turning it around as suddenly as Smith?